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Veto Message

August 11, 1894

To the Senate:

I hereby return without my approval Senate bill No. 1438, entitled "An act for the relief of Louis A. Yorke."

In the year 1886 the beneficiary named in this bill was a passed assistant paymaster in the Navy. In December of that year he appeared before a naval examining board convened pursuant to law for the purpose of passing upon his fitness to be promoted to the grade of paymaster.

The investigation of the board was conducted fairly and thoroughly. Much of the evidence relating to the candidate's moral fitness for promotion was documentary, and the examination touching his professional competency was of the usual character in such cases.

Considerable evidence was before the board showing quite a large amount of personal indebtedness owing by the candidate, and it appeared that in a few instances his accounts with the Navy Department had not been promptly settled. It was also shown that he had not at all times deposited the Government money intrusted to his care in the places required by law and the regulations of the Navy. In connection with his personal indebtedness incidents and circumstances were brought to light which certainly indicated that he entertained very lax ideas of honest dealing and fairness and which developed a disregard of the obligations and requirements of his position as an officer in the Navy. He was given abundant opportunity to meet and explain every damaging allegation and every adverse inference arising from the evidence, and his claim, not without foundation it appeared, that the charges against him were instigated by malice was doubtless given full weight.

The examining board on the evidence made the following decisions and findings:

The written examination of the candidate shows that he is deficient in his knowledge of the duties appertaining to the next higher grade; and the record evidence puts in question his moral fitness, and he has failed to establish both his professional and moral qualifications for promotion to the satisfaction of the board.

Therefore we hereby certify that Passed Assistant Paymaster Louis A. Yorke, United States Navy, has the mental fitness to perform efficiently all the duties, both at sea and on shore, of the next higher grade, but he has not the professional and moral qualifications required, and we do not recommend him for promotion.

After the board had thus disposed of the case and had adjourned it was, at the request of the candidate, reconvened by order of the Secretary of the Navy, who issued for its guidance the following directions, among others:

The board will inform Passed Assistant Paymaster Yorke of its findings and of the evidence upon which it finds him to be not morally qualified for promotion, and will afford him a further hearing and an opportunity to present such evidence as he may desire as to his moral fitness for promotion.

The board met pursuant to such order on the 4th day of January, 1887, when the findings of the board were read to the candidate for promotion, and also the evidence upon which said findings were based, and he was informed that the board would accord him a further hearing as to his moral fitness for promotion and would afford him a reasonable time in which to submit his case. Thereupon he requested the board to allow him until the 26th day of January to produce the necessary witnesses in his behalf. This request was granted, but on the day appointed, upon his representation that he was then unable to submit his defense, he was upon his request allowed another day for that purpose.

In availing himself of the opportunity thus afforded him to present evidence in defense or explanation of the matters charged against him he examined no witnesses and contented himself with presenting his own statement, containing little more than a reiteration of statements he had already made before the board at previous hearings, supplemented by slight documentary evidence which established no new facts in his favor.

The board thereupon reviewed all the evidence and proofs which had been submitted during the entire examination, and after full consideration decided that there was nothing in the additional evidence produced to warrant a modification of the original finding, and the board therefore again certified and decided that the candidate had not the moral qualifications to perform efficiently the duties of the grade to which he sought promotion.

The Secretary of the Navy transmitted the record, proceedings, and findings of said examining board to the President, with a recommendation that the same be approved and that the candidate be discharged from the Navy with one year's pay, pursuant to a statute passed on the 5th day of August, 1882, directing a discharge from the service in such cases.

Thereupon, and on the 19th day of February, 1887, the record, proceedings, and findings of said board were approved by the President, and Passed Assistant Paymaster Yorke was ordered discharged from the naval service with one year's pay.

The bill now under consideration provides that the action of the examining board above recited "be set aside and declared null and void." It also authorizes the President "to appoint the beneficiary to the office to which he would have been promoted but for said action and to retire him in that grade as of the date he was wholly retired."

The authority attempted by the bill to be given to the President to thus make an appointment to the office of paymaster in the Navy without the interposition of the Senate appears to be inadmissible under that clause of the Constitution which only permits the President to appoint certain officers "by and with the advice and consent of the Senate."

The bill provides for the immediate retirement of the beneficiary. He is now but 47 years old, thus lacking fifteen years of the time when he would be entitled to retirement on account of age. There is no suggestion that he is physically incapacitated. On the contrary, when he was examined for promotion a medical board certified that he was physically qualified to perform all his duties at sea, and the candidate himself not only certified to the same thing, but further declared that he was "free from all bodily ailments." If this condition continues and if he should be restored to the Navy at all, he should be sent to duty on the active list instead of being retired. On the facts as presented he would seem to be out of place among those who, though still compensated by the Government, have been on account of age, long and honorable service, or disabilities incurred in the discharge of duty relieved from further activity.

A careful investigation of the facts submitted to the examining board and a consideration of all the statements made on behalf of the beneficiary named in the bill utterly fail, in my opinion, to justify the impeachment of the findings and determination of the board.

I have no doubt malicious feeling growing out of domestic difficulties entered into the affair and gave impetus to the search after inculpating evidence, but facts were nevertheless established beyond any reasonable doubt which abundantly uphold these findings.

I feel obliged to disapprove the bill herewith returned because I believe the power to appoint a paymaster in the Navy ought not, under the Constitution, be conferred upon the President alone; because if the beneficiary were restored to the Navy there would be no justice or propriety in placing him upon the retired list, and because upon the merits of the case I am of the opinion the judgment of the examining board ought not to be reversed.


Grover Cleveland, Veto Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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